Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Third synthSIG meeting April 1, 2009

This meeting of synthSIG we had the unique opportunity to visit the recording studio that is part of The University of the Arts School of Music. In this studio there are two Moog synthesizers and one Arp 2600 synth. The large modular Moog was the fourth one built by Robert Moog and has been lovingly restored and maintained in nearly perfect condition. Yes there are a few glitches but what can one expect for a device that is easily over forty years old. Analog lives!

We were very privileged to have Professor Andrew Rudin (now retired from teaching but not composing) who gave an energetic talk on his background with emphasis on how he became involved with electronic music while a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. He studied with George Rochberg and having seen the Moog synthesizer at the dance studio of  Alwin Nikolai he convinced Penn to bring Robert Moog to the campus. Within a year, Moog built one of his first large scale studios at Penn. Rudin created some seminal electronic works with that system. Upon graduation, he was hired by the Philadelphia Musical Academy to teach composition and was instrumental in that institution acquiring a Moog. 

During the late 1960's Rudin was commissioned by Nonesuch Records to produce an electronic music album Tragoedia, a highly acclaimed example of serious musical composition realized on the Moog. An excerpt of this piece was used by Federico Fellini in his film Satyricon

The Philadelphia Musical Academy was later merged with the Philadelphia College of Art and eventually became The University of the Arts.

It was a rare opportunity to listen to a dedicated composer who pioneered the use of the electronic music synthesizer as a serious musical instrument. His stories about Robert Moog and the history of this treasure of a synthesizer was most engaging. Thank you Andrew!

Michael Johnson hosted our meeting and demonstrated some of the Moog's capability as well as fielding a number of questions on its operation. Thank you Michael!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Second synthSIG meeting

The second meeting of synthSIG met on Thursday Feb. 26th with a small but dedicated group. Our first presenter was Samual Raymond who demonstrated his compositional approach to "Narrative Sound." His approach was to extensively modify Garageband instruments to fit his expressive intents. He utilized Garageband's multi-tracking capabilities to create a progression of motifs that matched his narrative. The result was quite impressive in variety of timbres and expression.

Our second presenter that evening was Yohsuke Araki who brought his microKorg synth along with a multi-effect mixer and eked out a variety of rich sounds.

John Phillips was our third presenter who brought in an impressive array of hardware to demonstrate his interactive video/sound presentation. John utilized a Buchla Lightning wand performer( Buchla and Associates - Lightning III ), along with two laptop computers containing video and audio files.

Brian Biggs wound-up the evening doing a presentation of SoundCloud ( a place where creators of electronic music can upload, share and comment on works by members of the electronica community. Individuals may upload up to ten works for free or an unlimited number by paying a fee.

The next meeting of synthSIG will be either in March or early April. The meeting will be held in the UArts School of Music recording/synthesizer studio and will feature a demonstration of the very rare Moog modular synthesizer (number four of this rare breed!)

In addition there is an ARP 2600 synth that will be shown.

If there are any additions, corrections or suggestions and links, please contact:
Tom Porett

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Inaugural Meeting of SynthSIG Dec. 10, 2008 UArts

The first meeting of SynthSIG was held on December 10th, 2008 at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, with two engaging presenters, Michael Barker and Brian Biggs. 

Michael is pictured here performing one of his works on the "bent" drum machine.

He gave a great introduction to the realm of circuit bending and showed details of modifications he has made to his Yamaha drum machines.

Brian Biggs presented his approaches to creating sound tracks for his video and animation works. He discussed a variety of software synths and plug-ins he has used including: 

Reason ( and 
Live (
Below are some links and comments that Brian supplied

DrDevice plug-in ( audiodamage below)

Brian sent this information along:
Tom, here's a short list of stuff I think is useful.
The best website for all this, in my opinion:
They have an annual circuit bending contest and they cover soft synths, hardware, oddities, Max/MSP, pretty much the whole gamut. The guy behind the site, Peter Kirn, wrote a terrific book about digital audio called Real World Digital Audio published by Peachpit. There is also a companion site called Create DIgital Motion.

Wire to the Ear is a decidedly un-academic take on matters electronic-musical. Oliver Chesler is a NY-based dark new waver in the tradition of Gary Numan and angry Depeche Mode. He talks about stuff as he actually uses it and even with the poor editing and typos, he's pretty entertaining. He's a big fan of Ableton and posts a lot of useful tricks for Live.
Synthtopia posts WAY too much, like 20-30 a day sometimes, and half of it is just junk. But there is a lot of info about, you know, synths. I find lately that they're just pulling from other sites like Wire to the Ear and Create Digital Music.
This is where I got that crazy kinetic delay I was showing last night. They have three or four other VSTs that I'd like to get.
This is the creator of Synplant. They also designed Malstrom in Reason.
A decent documentary on circuit bending.
Foundsound and Unfoundsound records. Local. LOTS of free music. Mostly clickity glitchy and gets repetetive, but there are some real gems in here. They also post sampled stuff, like a collection of sounds taken at KB Toys in the Galleria on Market Street.

And of course you can search "circuit bending" on YouTube or Vimeo and get a lovely treasure trove of stuff.

Create Digital Music has a pool on Flickr for those of us who like to look at other people's gear.

And I'm not sure how to describe this: